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A finish is a win

November 18, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - Hundreds of people on Saturday ran the equivalent of Hagerstown to Gaithersburg by finishing Washington County's famed ultramarathon, the JFK 50 Mile.

Many considered it a conquest more than a race.

Thirteen-year-old Kevin Grimm, the youngest runner, said his father, David, just hoped he could finish.

Kevin, though, pushed for a time of less than 10 hours - which he accomplished, by a few minutes. David Grimm, 47, running alongside his son, was in his eighth JFK 50 Mile race.

Susan Muhaw of Montville, N.J., had run marathons, but never this far. She turned 50, then she ran 50.

"I figured once I got to the 35-mile mark, I could gut it out," she said.

Josh Collins, a top-10 finisher last year, saw his JFK 50 Mile time increase by more than 90 minutes this year. He finished in 8 hours, 15 minutes.

It didn't help that Collins, 20, of Mansfield, Ohio, part of a U.S. Naval Academy team, fell a few times on the treacherous Appalachian Trail, the first part of the course. It was nothing serious, but he walked with noticeable discomfort afterward.

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At the post-race cool-down center inside Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, Collins and other sore-legged runners signed up for massages from Terry Kelly and Roz Musser of York, Pa.

Musser, a massage therapist, said she and Kelly volunteered to soothe weary muscles. Kelly's wife ran the race last year.

"This stretches their muscles, keeps them relaxed," Musser said. "They don't tighten up."

The JFK 50 Mile first was held in 1963, part of a national fitness initiative by then-President John F. Kennedy. It outlasted similar races that ceased when Kennedy was assassinated, according to a race history.

The 50-mile course - mostly along the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath, then culminating on paved roads - is a stretch for many. The deadline to finish is 14 hours.

The fastest runners needed less than half as long.

Michael Wardian, 33, of Arlington, Va., won the race in 5:50.34.

Anne Lundblad, 41, of Swannanoa, N.C., was the top female finisher, with a time of 6:42.50.

The top Washington County finisher was Herald-Mail Assistant Sports Editor Andrew Mason, 35, of Hagerstown, who ran the race in 6:39.09.

Several hours after the fittest endurance mavens had finished, the sky darkened and a spotlight was switched on. Runners wearing reflective orange vests lumbered the final stretch along Sunset Avenue, buoyed by clapping and prodding from rooting spectators.

Andrew Karnavas, 49, who lives near Pittsburgh, said he liked seeing thick crowds of people cheering for runners along the C&O Canal towpath earlier in the day.

He called the JFK 50 Mile the easiest of the three races he has completed at that distance.

The Bull Run course in Virginia was muddy.

The course of a race near Pittsburgh rose and dropped so often, Karnavas said he was unsure whether he even would have driven it.

"I watched grown men cry," he said.

Barb Hunt, 46, of Charles Town, W.Va., didn't give up after missing the 14-hour cutoff by two minutes in her first JFK 50 Mile.

She has come back and run the race four more times, each time beating the deadline.

That includes Saturday, when she finished in about 11:06, close to three hours better than her first try.

"I've lost 30 pounds since July," she said. "It was time. I needed to lose it."

Alan Downs, 19, of Clear Spring, said this year's race, his second, was easier.

From last year, he learned a better approach to ingesting nutrients and sports drinks during the race.

Downs, a freshman at Shippensburg (Pa.) University, also set a better pace for himself this year.

His mother, Cindy Downs, noticed the contrast in her son's condition when he finished.

"Last year, he couldn't make it to the car," she said. "Now, he looks like he could sprint."

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